Warner Robins residents fighting to take back their neighborhood

bpurser@macon.comApril 12, 2014 

  • Residents of a Warner Robins subdivision plagued by crime in recent months are pushing back with plans to create a Neighborhood Watch program. The organizational meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Warner Robins Law Enforcement Center, 100 Watson Blvd. By BECKY PURSER/THE TELEGRAPH

WARNER ROBINS -- Plagued with a spike in crime in recent months, residents of the Honey Ridge Plantation subdivision are pushing back with the formation of a Neighborhood Watch program.

An organizational meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the roll call room of the Warner Robins Law Enforcement Center at 100 Watson Blvd.

On a recent late afternoon, more than a dozen residents walked the streets of the subdivision knocking on doors, passing out Neighborhood Watch fliers and inviting their neighbors to the meeting.

As residents met up at the end of a cul-de-sac to canvass the neighborhood, two police officers talked about the community policing program. The officers then drove their patrol cars through the subdivision as residents passed out fliers.

Jimmy Cunningham, who lives on Mauldon Court, located in the center of the subdivision off Elberta Road, said he witnessed several break-in attempts in recent months at his neighbor’s home. He and his dog also surprised someone attempting to break into a vehicle.

“My dog was barking, and I went outside, and this guy was kind of hiding down. All of a sudden, he jumped up and got on a bike and ran off,” Cunningham said. “One night, he was barking to go outside and went in my neighbor’s yard, and the guy was getting there, and my dog chased him off.

“Several times they’ve tried to break in, and the neighborhood is getting real bad. It was a nice neighborhood at one time, but it’s time to put a stop to it,” Cunningham said. “Everybody works and try to have nice things, and people breaking in your house, it’s so unsafe anymore.”

Ernestine Petties lives on Dunmurry Place, a street where multiple homes have been burglarized in the past few months. She said the neighborhood wasn’t like that when she moved in seven years ago.

“When I was first moved here it was so quiet,” Petties said from her front porch. “Then all the sudden, now they’re telling me there’s been several break-ins. I know like a couple of houses across the street have been broken into.”

Jacqueline Brown said she was coming home one night earlier this year as a patrol car came around her vehicle. She didn’t know at the time that the officer was headed to her Mauldon Court residence.

“They tried to break in my house,” said Brown as she passed out Neighborhood Watch fliers. “They kicked my door in.”

An officer told her that her alarm had gone off. Though the culprits kicked the door, they didn’t make it inside.

“This is the not the first time they’ve broken in my house,” said Brown, who has lived in the subdivision more than 20 years. “We need to take back this neighborhood.”

Willie Curry, who was working under the hood of his pickup truck last week, said he plans to participate in the Neighborhood Watch program.

He said the subdivision should be a “place of peace” -- “not a place of loitering, not a place of coming home and locking your doors, scared to walk your own streets and not worried about having to lock your house and leave and then worry about if you’re going to get a phone call because there was a break-in in your neighborhood or in your house, or you see other people breaking into other people’s houses.

“It’s been too many reports going on in our neighborhood,” Curry said. “Cops can’t man the whole neighborhood every hour because, you know, it’s a big city. So they can only do what they can do.”

A picture of neighborhood crime

More than two dozen burglaries have been reported in the subdivision since October, mostly along Dunmurry Place, according to Warner Robins police incident reports. A few of the homes have been burglarized two or three times.

Most commonly stolen were TVs and other electronics. Some homes were broken into but nothing was stolen. Several reports note that a young black male or black males were witnessed in the area. Some were seen carrying TVs.

One report listed the suspects’ ages as 15 to 20.

In one report, an abandoned bicycle was found under a broken window of a vacant home.

Some of the reports dealt with damage to property in which power boxes or electrical wiring was messed up. One resident reported seeing two people in her shed before she lost power.

In other incidents, a neighborhood boy was “jumped” when he got off the school bus, while a visiting child was also “jumped” when she was walking through the neighborhood. A neighborhood girl reported other girls hitting her in the face and knocking her glasses off, while another girl reported screaming and scaring away two girls who were trying to come into a window of her home in another incident.

In one instance, a wheelchair was stolen from the front porch of a 65-year-old resident.

Other reports from the area contained complaints of overgrown weeds at a residence, a custodial dispute among parents and dogs allegedly damaging a neighbor’s fence.

Keeping safe

When meeting with residents in the cul-de-sac, Warner Robins police Capt. John Clay and Lt. Jeff McCommon talked with them about how they can make their neighborhood safer and raise the quality of life.

“There’s been a number of burglaries, entering autos, that type of thing, thefts, over here,” Clay said afterward. “There’s been kind of an uptick in the activity over here in this area. So, we’re working on getting rid of it.”

Clay gave some tips to help protect homes, including locking vehicles, securing houses and keeping belongings off the front lawn.

“They look for crime of opportunity a lot of times,” Clay said. “Now, we’ve had them where they are kicking in doors. But they also look for just an open door, an open window that they can get in real easily.”

Clay suggested making sure homes are equipped with good locks on doors and windows. He said outside lights, fencing and security alarms that sound a loud horn and flash lights all work well as deterrents.

“The harder you make your residence (not) a target, then the better off you’re going to be in that they’re going to go find somebody that’s an easier target in most cases,” Clay said.

Before forming a Neighborhood Watch, residents first should canvass the neighborhood to find out if others are interested.

“If you’re the only person interested in your neighborhood, then we can’t have a Neighborhood Watch,” Clay said. “But if we get a group of people who are interested in forming it, then they can call me (at 478-322-0260), I’ll send them the materials on how to start it up. Then we’ll meet. Have an organizational meeting. We talk about what Neighborhood Watch is, what it isn’t.

“And then we build basically a philosophy of we’re watching out for each other. We’re being observant. We’re looking for things that are unusual, things that are problems that they can contact the proper authorities, and we can come take care of it.”

Residents outside of Warner Robins may contact law enforcement agencies in their areas about forming a Neighborhood Watch program.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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